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Colonial Pipeline Paid Hackers Nearly $5 Million In Ransom After Attack

Colonial Pipeline has reportedly paid ransom, to the tune of almost US$5 million in untraceable cryptocurrency, to the hackers that forced the operator to shut down the main U.S. fuel pipeline on Friday, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing two sources with knowledge of the transaction.

Colonial Pipeline has reportedly said previously that it would not pay ransom to the hackers to restore the operations of the key gasoline and diesel pipeline that carries around 45 percent of the fuel consumed on the Eastern Seaboard.

According to Bloomberg’s sources, after receiving the ransom, the hackers—believed to be based in either Eastern Europe or Russia—sent Colonial Pipeline a decrypting tool to restore the computer network. A representative for the pipeline operator declined to comment on the report for Bloomberg.

The main pipeline carrying gasoline and diesel to the U.S. East Coast shut down after a ransomware attack late on Friday, sparking a run to gas stations and sending gasoline prices surging. As of May 13, the national average price of regular gasoline had jumped to $3.028 per gallon, topping the $3 mark for the first time since 2014.

The attack also highlighted the challenges in protection against cyberattacks, and prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to sign on Wednesday an Executive Order to improve the nation’s cybersecurity and protect federal government networks.

“Recent cybersecurity incidents such as SolarWinds, Microsoft Exchange, and the Colonial Pipeline incident are a sobering reminder that U.S. public and private sector entities increasingly face sophisticated malicious cyber activity from both nation-state actors and cyber criminals,” the White House said.   

Meanwhile, Colonial Pipeline resumed operations late on Wednesday but warned that a full return to normal deliveries would take a few more days and gas shortages in some areas could persist until the end of the weekend.

More than a thousand fuel stations in the Southeast have sounded the alarm on gasoline and diesel shortages caused by panic buying and shuttered pipelines. Even people in Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, rushed to the gas stations on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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